March 4, 2012

Chelsea Fires Coach Villas-Boas, Hires Roberto DiMatteo (VIDEO | 3 PICS)

Chelsea's manager Andre Villas-Boas (right) talks to Frank Lampard during an English Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea at The Hawthorns in West Bromwich, England on Saturday.
Chelsea fired manager Andre Villas- Boas after less than a year in charge, and hired Roberto DiMatteo as coach until the end of the Premier League season.

“The results and performances of the team have not been good enough and were showing no signs of improving at a key time in the season,” the west London soccer team said today in a statement on its website. Chelsea lost 1-0 at West Brom yesterday, and is in fifth place in England’s Premier League, one spot out of the Champions League positions.

The 34-year-old joined Chelsea in June as the club’s youngest-ever coach after winning the Europa League in his first season at Porto. The Portuguese was hired by Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich -- who has used eight coaches since 2004 -- to try to win the Champions League, the region’s top club competition. DiMatteo, 41, is a former Chelsea midfielder and coach of West Brom.

Chelsea faces Birmingham in an F.A. Cup replay in 2 days has to overcome a 3-1 loss to Napoli to stay in the Champions League. It has had one win -- over 19th place Bolton -- in its last seven games, including a 3-3 home draw with Manchester United after holding a three-goal lead.

“The club is still competing in the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League and the F.A. Cup, as well as challenging for a top-four spot in the Premier League, and we aim to remain as competitive as possible on all fronts,” the Chelsea statement said. “With that in mind we felt our only option was to make a change at this time.”

Benitez Next?

Former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is U.K. bookmaker William Hill’s favorite to permanently replace Villas-Boas, with Mourinho a 3-1 shot for the post. That would mean a successful $1 bet would return $3 plus the original stake.
Abramovich is holding a meeting on Friday to consider the idea of sacking Andre Villas-Boas and parachuting in Benitez.
DiMatteo, who joined Chelsea in 1996 for a then-club record 4.9 million pounds ($7.8 million), scored in the team’s defeat of Middlesbrough in the 1997 F.A. Cup final. He was part of the squads that won the UEFA Cup Winners Cup and League Cup in 1998, and the 2000 F.A. Cup champions.

The Swiss national retired at 31 after breaking his leg in three places. He became coach of the Milton Keynes Dons in July 2008, with the English League One club reaching the playoffs in his first season. He joined West Brom in 2009 and got the club promoted to the Premier League in his initial campaign. He was replaced in Feb. 2011.

Chelsea has struggled to retain coaches under Abramovich.

Claudio Ranieri was dismissed in May 2004 in his fourth season and replaced by Jose Mourinho, who won the league in two of his three seasons in charge. The Portuguese coach quit after a disagreement with Abramovich, who hired Avram Grant in 2007.


Former Brazil and Portugal national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari started in July 2008, but didn’t complete a season before he was fired and replaced by interim manager Ray Wilkins and then Guus Hiddink.

Chelsea's manager Andre Villas-Boas (right) talks to Frank Lampard during an English Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea at The Hawthorns in West Bromwich, England on Saturday.
The Dutchman didn’t take the full-time job as he was still overseeing Russia’s national team, and Abramovich brought in Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian, who won the F.A. Cup and the Premier League, was dismissed in May 2011 as the owner tried to bring in a coach to win the Champions League.

Villas-Boas never played soccer professionally, and got his coaching qualifications when he was 17. Former England national coach Bobby Robson picked him to work with Porto’s youth-team coaches, and then Villas-Boas joined the staff of Mourinho at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan.

In his only season in charge at Porto, the team won the country’s Supercup, the Portuguese Cup, the Europa League and the domestic league, not losing a league match in the season.

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